I remember when I thought I was being clever by sticking my mother’s bananas into the freezer while my parents were off visiting the Bahamas. I was unduly proud of myself, having assumed those bananas would be perfectly preserved, only to discover to my great shame that I’d murdered them once I extracted their blackened husks from the freezer and presented them to my mother.
“That’s okay!” she smiled reassuringly. “I can use them to make banana bread.”
Now, would I have fared better if I’d placed those bananas in the refrigerator instead?
Well, the typical desire behind sticking something into a refrigerator is to extend its life for up to a week (depending on the product), while sticking it in the freezer is intended to extend its life for a much longer duration, often for at least a year (especially in the case of a wedding cake top).
Meanwhile, bananas are the world’s most accessible, sweet and readily available source of potassium. They’re obviously intended to be peeled and eaten raw, and those who chow down on them are rewarded with a sweet, satisfying flavor and soft texture. With that in mind, I’d totally understand why you’d want to indefinitely extend their lifespan. The question is, can you?
Yes! Can you?
Yes, you can, but it probably won’t work out.
The actual fruit of the bananas is inside of the peel, and it requires heat to ripen since it’s a tropical fruit. As such, being stored at room temperature is what allows the bananas to ripen at a manageable and predictable rate. However, once the bananas achieve their desired state of sweetness and consistency, they often become overripe and mushy very rapidly. This is obviously what’s prompting you to ask whether or not bananas can be refrigerated.
Here’s the deal: Refrigerating a banana will have two different outcomes on its two distinct attributes — the peel and the fruit or flesh. The maturation of the fruit itself will be stalled, but the deterioration of the peel will be accelerated. Therefore, when you yank your unripe bananas out of the fridge, the peel will be completely deteriorated and the fruit of the bananas will be just as unripe as it was when they entered the refrigerator. Essentially, you didn’t slow the ripening process down, you ground it to a halt.
So I shouldn’t refrigerate the bananas?
Not unless you know for a fact that the bananas have already achieved a state of sweetened perfection, and you know you can’t consume them all before they begin to decay. Otherwise, you’re better off simply adding to your tally of bananas by eating them straight away, or pulverizing them up into a smoothie on the spot.
Also, we might as well address what happens when you stick your bananas in the freezer. The answer is, the exact same thing: The freezing temperature leaves the banana’s flesh perfectly preserved in its present state, like a miniature, yellow, fruity Captain America, but the peel devolves into a frozen nightmare with the speed of a Sub Zero fatality, and becomes a nightmare to remove. The way to address this is to freeze your perfectly ripened bananas only after they have already been extracted from their peels.
In short, you should only refrigerate your bananas to preserve their already ideal state. Any other form of frosty intervention is likely to result in you wishing it merely tasted like mush.